A number of scams targeting residents of the area has the RCMP looking to educate the public.

Staff Sergeant Troy Raddatz says the scheme that is causing the most worry is the grandparent scheme. 

He says the scammer targets certain seniors and calls them at home. The scammer convinces the victim that they have a grandchild, or some other relative, in jail and have requested up to $8,000 in cash for the bail. Recently, some victims have been told by the perpetrators that there is a gag order in place for the relative’s safety, preventing the victim from corroborating the story.

Then the scammer typically collects the money from the victim at their residence.

This winter, there have been five victims in this area, resulting in an approximate loss of $40,000.

Unfortunately, the RCMP have been hearing about these scams after they have occurred.

“We’ve done extensive neighbourhood canvases each time this has happened to try and find a doorbell cam, a surveillance video, anything that may give us a place to start following up,” he says. 

Raddatz says there are a few things people should know in case they ever become targeted for this scam. “In Canada, there is no such thing as $8,000 cash bail,” he says. “I’ve been a policeman for 20 years, and though I haven’t dealt with a lot of really complex crime, I’ve never seen a cash bail for over $2,000.”

In fact, Raddatz says cash bail is rarely used in this day and age.

“We will never, ever show up and pick up that money,” says Raddatz. “If you are paying bail money, for someone in Canada, especially in Alberta, you will have to deliver that to the local detachment or the courthouse.”

Another thing people are allowed to do if they have received a call at their house from an officer is verify that they are indeed an officer.

Raddatz says officers will identify themselves, and people are allowed to call their detachment to confirm they are speaking with an officer.

Raddatz believes the perpetrators are picking names from a phone book and then using open source social media to find out just enough details to be convincing. 

“Intelligent, very well-adjusted people, can react viscerally and they can make decisions that they wouldn’t if it didn’t involve their family,” he says. “And these conmen know and they are good at what they do.”

The Drayton detachment is also monitoring calls from other detachments across the province as they are scams that follow a similar pattern. Raddatz says they would like to piece together a multi-agency response.

“These specific grandparent scams are labour intensive because so far the mechanism hasn’t been there to ID the suspects,” he says.

The more complex scams, that often involve businesses who are being targeted from outside of the province, use the most man hours to investigate.

At the January 24 town council meeting, Raddatz told council that one local business had been defrauded for $100,000.

Raddatz says investigators sent out a notice, including a picture of a potential suspect, to every single law agency in the country. He says that member is now sifting through all of the responses from every agency trying to see if he can find a match for the picture.

The financial crimes division of the RCMP deals in much larger schemes that involve millions or even billions of dollars. Unfortunately, that means this fraud, which is small in comparison to what they normally deal with, is not significant enough for them to spend their man hours on it.

As a result, the local detachments at the community level are mostly responsible for the investigation. “We are investing tens, hundreds of hours, or even more for some of these cases.”

Raddatz says they realize that while the sums involved may not seem very large to the financial crimes division, it is a lot of money for a small business. “We owe it to the victim to find the perpetrators,” he says.

Right now, he says the main focus is on the grandparent scam. The detachment has partnered with the banks in town, but even then they can only go so far. The privacy legislation and policies that banks have prevents them from sharing a lot of information.

However, he says they are doing everything they can to partner with the RCMP to allow them to intervene prior to anyone handing the money over.

Raddatz says two individuals running the same scam were arrested in Red Deer. However, when local members compared what pictures they have, it was clear they weren’t the same people. 

He says they believe the people that they are targeting the area are working on a circuit. Two or three people in the community will be defrauded, and there is nothing for weeks or months. Then they strike again leaving more victims in their wake.

“They stay on the move, which makes it even more difficult to pin down,” he says.

Anyone who believes they may have information that will assist the RCMP in their investigation can contact the Drayton Valley office at 780-542-4456. 

By Amanda Jeffery, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Feb 08, 2024 at 10:48

This item reprinted with permission from   Free Press   Drayton Valley, Alberta

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